GOP SET TO MOVE QUICKLY ON SO-CALLED ‘RIGHT-TO-WORK’
The 2017 legislative session got underway on Jan. 5 with majority Republicans poised to move quickly on a so-called “right-to-work” bill that would make business owners criminals subject to jail time for negotiating labor contracts that require workers to pay dues for the union representation they receive. Rather contradictorily, however, Republicans leaders also said they would push legislation to reduce state regulations on businesses.
Imposing regulations on how companies can negotiate with their employee unions has been a top goal for Republican lawmakers in recent years, but their efforts have been blocked by departing Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. With Republican Gov.-elect Eric Greitens, a right-to-work supporter, set to take office on Jan. 9, a right-to-work bill is expected to be enacted within weeks.
The new session started with Republicans holding a 116-46 advantage over Democrats in the House of Representatives, with a vacant seat created just before session got underway when state Rep. Caleb Jones, R-Columbia, resigned in order to become Greitens’ deputy chief of staff. Republicans held a 25-9 opening-day advantage, but will lose a member when state Sen. Mike Parsons, R-Bolivar, is sworn in as lieutenant governor on Jan. 9.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said another priority for his chamber will be to pass legislation banning lawmakers from receiving gifts from lobbyists. The Senate, however, has long been resistant to such a ban.
KANDER CHASTISES HOUSE GOP OVER PHOTO VOTER ID
Departing Secretary of State Jason Kander warned House Republicans that “we’ll see you in court” if GOP lawmakers enact strict photo voter identification legislation that disenfranchises thousands of Missourians. Kander, a Democrat who leaves office on Jan. 9, made his comments while serving the ceremonial role of presiding over the House of Representatives while lawmakers took the oath of office to begin their new terms.
“As Secretary of State for a little longer, I feel like it’s my responsibility to tell you that even though you have the power to make it harder for eligible Missourians to vote, you shouldn’t,” Kander said.
For a decade, Republicans had sought to impose a photo voter ID requirement as a means of disenfranchising certain groups of voters — minorities, the elderly and the disabled — that are most likely not to have a photo ID and overwhelmingly tend to support Democratic candidates.
Republicans finally achieved success last year when Missouri voters ratified a constitutional amendment authorizing a voter photo ID requirement. While enabling legislation also passed last year over a gubernatorial veto contains a relatively lax photo ID mandate, House Republicans are considered replacing that with a significantly more stringent requirement.
While House Democrats gave Kander a standing ovation for his comments, Republicans sat in stony silence. In retaliation, Republicans skipped approving a courtesy resolution thanking Kander for presiding over the organization of the House.
SUPREME COURT SUSPENDS CIRCUIT JUDGE FOR MISCONDUCT
The Missouri Supreme Court on Jan. 3 took the extremely rare action of temporarily removing a lower court judge from the bench for committing judicial misconduct. Under the unanimous ruling, Lincoln County Circuit Judge Christina Kunza Mennemeyer will be suspended without pay for six months as of Feb. 1.
While engaging in a dispute against the state public defenders office, Mennemeyer routinely delayed certain cases involving public defenders past the 60-day time limit for requesting a new judge in an attempt to avoid being removed from those cases. As a result, several defendants unnecessarily sat in jail for two months or more before appearing in court. Mennemeyer also followed through on threats to file baseless disciplinary complaints against public defenders that had displeased her.
Mennemeyer, a Republican, was first elected a judge in 2012. Her term expires at the end of 2018.
REVENUE UP 2.2 PERCENT THROUGH FIRST HALF OF FY 2017
Net year-to-date state general revenue collection increased 2.2 percent through the first six months of the 2017 fiscal year compared to the same period in FY 2016, going from $4.17 billion last year to $4.26 billion this year. Net collections for December 2016 increased by just 0.3 percent compared to those for December 2015, going from $810.7 million to $813.1 million.